Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pakistan Flood Aid Helps Fight Terrorism as Peace `Fragile,' Qureshi Says

Increased aid to Pakistan’s flood victims, including $180.5 million pledged at the United Nations yesterday, will help to keep terrorists from capitalizing on the crisis, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
“We are not going to allow them to take advantage or exploit this natural disaster,” Qureshi told reporters in New York yesterday. The result “depends on how effective and quick the response is. That is why it is so important that the international assistance comes immediately.”
Three weeks after Pakistan’s worst-ever floods began their sweep through northwest villages hit by militants and down the Indus River, the cost threatens to hinder the economy for years. Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh will request the International Monetary Fund restructure a $10 billion loan or consider new financing, the Financial Times reported.
Shaikh will travel to Washington next week after Pakistan determined that conditions attached to the loan cannot be met, the newspaper said, citing unnamed Pakistani officials.
A meeting of the UN General Assembly yesterday produced new pledges of $60 million from the U.S., $50 million from the U.K., $32 million from Germany and $38.5 million by the European Union. Qureshi called those actions “very encouraging.”
‘Slow-Motion Tsunami’
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN, after an initial slow reaction to its appeal for $460 million, had received 60 percent of that amount before the latest figures were announced.
The flooding is “one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times,” Ban said. “This is a global disaster, a global challenge. This disaster is far from over. Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami.”
A flood surge has reached Kotri in southern Sindh province and will take four days to enter the Arabian sea, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, director general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told Geo television today, threatening to swamp new areas.
“We expect a million people in Sindh will be further affected by the floods now that a second wave has come,” Jack Byrne, country representative for Catholic Relief Services, a non-government organization, said by phone from Hyderabad, the biggest metropolitan area directly on the Indus.
Qureshi said the floods have devastated Pakistan’s economy, submerging 17 million acres of farm land, and may undermine the government’s battle against Taliban.
Pakistan’s army and police have fought guerrillas across the northwest for more than a year, in the country’s most concerted offensive against Islamic radicals. Retaliatory suicide bombings and gun attacks have killed hundreds of security personnel and civilians nationwide.
Threat of Riots
Peace efforts in the country are “fragile” and need strengthening, the foreign minister said. “If we fail, it could undermine the hard-won gains made by the government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism.”
Qureshi said “billions of dollars” in crops have been destroyed, including 1 million acres of cotton and 1 million tons of wheat that was stored in warehouses. The “critical sector of livestock has been equally devastated,” he said.
The U.S. will offer an additional $60 million in emergency aid, raising the total to $150 million, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday. She also announced a relief fund that will accept personal contributions from Americans.
Clinton also said the Obama administration would direct toward flood relief about $200 million of $7.5 billion in aid to the country passed by Congress last year. That five-year package was intended to undercut Pakistani insurgents by strengthening the nation’s government and economy.
Aid Pledges
The EU increased its aid to Pakistan by $38.5 million, bringing its total to $141 million, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said. Germany will add $32 million to $18 million previously pledged.
The U.K. is doubling its aid to $100 million, Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said.
The 20 million people affected by the floods exceed the combined total of those displaced by the 2004 Asian tsunami and this year’s earthquakes in Haiti. Ban said 8 million people need food, water and shelter, and 14 million need health care.

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